Rugby Union: Jenkins sets the standard

Llanelli 62 Caerphilly 7
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The Independent Online
AS THE battle for places in the British League next season comes to a head, the Llanelli coach Gareth Jenkins is determined his club will not get left behind.

Llanelli certainly have the history behind them, they have a ground as good as most, yet still find people casting doubts on their worthiness for inclusion in British rugby's proposed new hierarchy. But as a man who played in one of British club rugby's greatest triumphs, Llanelli's stunning 1972 victory over the All Blacks, he is not going to let the Scarlets' great tradition fall by the wayside.

"I've told the players that now, more than any other time, we have to keep the stock of this club high. Their contribution to that is by keeping on winning," Jenkins said. "I read recently that Newport were saying that we don't get crowds any more at Stradey Park and we're not a club for the future. But we have 2,700 season ticket holders here and we're top of the Premier Division - there's not much wrong with that in my eyes. Our ambition is to be one of the four Welsh clubs in the top flight of a British League and as far as I'm concerned this is a vital time in the history of rugby. Things are changing so quickly and radical changes in our game are likely to be put in place by the end of this month. It's vital that we remain in the headlines and people keep talking about Llanelli."

As far as league rugby and Wales are concerned this season then the Scarlets have certainly been hogging the headlines. This 10-try demolition of a stubborn Caerphilly side, who only recently reached the quarter-finals of the European Shield Tournament, was just another demonstration of the ability in Jenkins' squad.

Maximum bonus points ensured Llanelli maintained their advantage over Pontypridd at the top of the table and Jenkins is now targeting four top- level performances in this month's WRU Challenge Trophy Tournament against overseas opposition.

Don't count against Llanelli winning both the trophy and the Premier Division crown and joining the elite clubs of Britain next season. Certainly everything seems set fair for the treble and Jenkins is working hard for it.

In the short term, however, Jenkins will have to do so without the services of his recent Welsh international recruit, Byron Hayward, who damaged the medial ligament in his right knee after only quarter-of-an-hour. Hayward will have a scan on the injured knee this week but is likely to be side- lined for between four and six weeks.

If that is the case he will miss the Challenge Trophy and will almost certainly be ruled out of contention for the Welsh team to face Scotland in the Five Nations' Championship opener at Murrayfield on 7 February.

To make matters worse for Hayward he missed out on a try romp after his departure. He left the field moments after the Tongan centre Salesi Finau had scored the game's opening try, but missed out on nine others from his team-mates.

When Llanelli played at Caerphilly in September Jenkins thought a late try by the home team had robbed his side of a second bonus point. This time his mathematics was not tested as seven tries flowed in the second half and the new Wales lock Chris Wyatt added to his growing reputation with a hat-trick of tries.

Llanelli: B Hayward (D Rogers, 16 min); W Proctor, S Finau, N Davies, D Williams; S Jones, R Moon; P Booth, R McBryde (capt), M Madden (S Gale, 73 min), C Wyatt, M Voyle, H Jenkins (D Hodges, 61 min), S Quinnell (V Cooper, 61 min), I Jones, .

Caerphilly: B Davey; D Starr (N Berbillion, 70 min), R Bidgood, A Palfrey, R Wintle; C John, J Hooper (W Bray, 70 min); R Bilton, C Ferris, M Wilson (S Price, 66 min), D Niblo (A Evans, 55 min), N Jones (capt), B Watkins (G Jones, 45 min), P Ager, C Brown.

Referee: G Simmonds (Cardiff)